After Before Challenge; Shane Francescut

Each month the After Before forum take a break form editing our own photos and take up the challenge of editing a member of the forum’s photo. This month One Photo Focus picture is by Shane Francescut at The Weekly Minute.
There are many times when I look at an image and I can see an idea of what I want it to become. With some images it is just a minor tweak here and there, with others it can be quite a workout in Photoshop to see my vision bear fruit and then there are the images that take me on a marathon. Shane’s image took me on a marathon, not because it was bad but because my vision would mean a huge transformation.
The first time I looked at Shane’s picture a few fleeting thoughts passed by, terminator, Divergent and Life after humans. I really liked the seesaw in the foreground, which if everything else was aged and crumbling could be the focus of the image. This idea was going to mean a few steps had to be taken; Aging the content of the image and destroying content as well. I would use Shane’s image as a foundation to build everything on. I would need to use quite a few stock images to help create my vision, which was a still quite broad when I started editing.


In raw I didn’t do too much to the image, only minor adjustments and cropping, to create a good base. In Photoshop I first removed the sky; this wasn’t too difficult apart from the tree to the right. I then began looking at the buildings in the background. These buildings needed to be slightly damaged. I began with the block on the right using the polygon selection tool to select an area of the building and then deleted it from the layer.


I went looking for a stock image of a building which had been destroyed, damaged or ruined. I used a curves adjustment clipped to my new destroyed layer to match the colour of the original image. I also had to apply a field blur filter to make the stock image have the same sharpness as the original, so there were no continuity errors in the depth of field.
I did the same for all the other buildings in the background, except the dome. This can be a time consuming process as you experiment with different stock images.


With any place that has been left without humans to tend to it, nature will take it back. One of the best examples of this is Ivy. I wanted to add overgrown Ivy to greenhouse building in the foreground and the domed building in the background.

First I got the maple leaf brush which is standard in Photoshop, sized the brush to my image and started painting on a new layer where the Ivy will be.
I then got a texture image of a hedge and imported it to my image. I resized the texture to match the picture and using the maple leaf brush again, this time as an eraser softening the edge of the texture. I duplicated the texture multiple times until the texture cover the screen. I ctrl + right clicked on the layer I painted the Ivy; this created a selection of the Ivy that I then pasted a layer mask of my hedge texture.


The Ivy doesn’t look too realistic at this point and I would need to add some shadows. I first created a new layer on top and copied all that was visible into this layer (Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E). I desaturated this new layer, clipped it to the Ivy and set the blending to multiply. I added a curves layer and clipped that to my new desatruated layer. In the curves I massively clipped the highlights moving the white point to the midtones and then darkened the shadows. This meant that the only parts of the desaturated layer that were being added to the Ivy were natural shadows already in the scene.

The green of the Ivy didn’t match the rest of the image. I used a hue saturation layer to fix this; adjusting the hue, lightness and saturation of the ivy.


The grass area around the seesaw didn’t look wild enough. I added a stock image and masked around the seesaw. I used the standard Photoshop grass brush to blend the image. I also added shadows to the grass in the same way as I did with the Ivy and matched the colour of the grass using curves and hue saturation.


I added a moody stock sky to compliment the feeling of the image. I duplicated this and set the blending to multiply with an opacity if 50% to add more contrast.


I added a mixture of grunge textures to the buildings and seesaw to age them. All had to be masked to make them blend in. With the seesaw I used the pen tool to help create selections. All textures were set to a blending of overlay.


I made a series of curve adjustments to the image to brighten the foreground, colour tone the image and add contrast. I also created my normal dodge and burn layer (new layer, fill 50% grey, blending overlay) to selectively brighten areas of the image.


I added a hue and saturation adjustment to shift the hue more towards green and added some warmth with the photofilter. I also added some birds flying in the sky close to the dome with a bird brush. This seems to be a popular motif with this kind of image. I wanted the seesaw to stand out, so I selectively sharpened it via the highpass method.


I added a vignette just to finish the image off with the centre being on the seesaw.



I had been editing for 6 hours and I saved the image and went off to do something else. I came back the next day with fresh eyes. There were lots of minor things I needed to change, blend the tree in more, fix some masking issues with the seesaw and the dome. One of the big things I noticed was the contrast and when the image was resized to email to Stacy, the image looked like a contrasted mess. The problem was in the shadows as there was no shadow detail.

Under the vignette I took a snap shot of the image on a new layer and converted it to a smart object. I then applied a Shadow and Highlight adjustment to soften the shadows some more and reduce the contrast. This seemed to work.

I think with all the tweaking of the image on the second day, the editing time is somewhere in the 8 hours mark.
I like that I got the overall look and feel I wanted from the image, something dystopian. In hindsight I wish I chose a different grass stock image as the depth of field drops off slightly, but on the whole this is not that noticeable. I think the birds were a nice touch as well as the ruined buildings. Although they are a small element of the image it helps to convey the overall tone and feel.

Now over to you, what do you think of the image, is there anything you like or dislike or anything you would have done differently. Let me know in the comments or if you wish just say hi.

Please head over to Stacy’s blog to check out how others have edited the image.

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36 thoughts on “After Before Challenge; Shane Francescut

    • Thank you, the challenge takes place every week. We edit our own photos usually but on the first of the month we edit someone’s from the forum. If you want to take part follow the link to Stacy’s blog.

  1. Ah, I thought “Terminator” when I first saw this too! Really interesting to see what you have done to this image and the processes involved, 8 hrs!! You got a truly original edit of this, so well done. I like the sky you have added and the ivy on the building is an inspired touch, very post apocalyptic!

  2. Ben, Ben, Ben. It’s not nice, Ben, to make me look bad! I was so happy with my processing until I saw yours. As I’ve said before, it’s not right that someone should have so much talent. Unless, of course, it is me! I can see myself working 8 hours or more on processing a shot. But mine would come out like a little kid finger painting! You have vision and the creative ability to see it to fruition and I am amazed by you!

    • I am sorry for showing you up Emilio, I agree my photoshop knowledge is a curse that I have to bear. As my dad said to me, with great skill comes great responsibility.
      I will say that one of the things when creating something like this is to have a rough idea of where you want to go. This stops the finger painting effect.
      Glad you liked the final image Emilio.

      • I heard that before but you’ve paraphrased “with great power comes great responsibility”. Wasn’t that from an Ironman Comic or movie or something? 🙂

  3. I thought post apocalyptic when I saw it too, which is why I tried the composite. I LOVE your end result. It was a lot of work, but wow. Double wow. I agree with Laura. You get the trophy this month.

    I don’t know that I’d ever feel like all that level of work, but it sure makes me think about it.


    • Hi, I have been using photoshop for over 10 years now, as I have gotten better editing takes longer and I guess that is the pay off. Although 8 hours is the longest I would want spend on an image.
      Glad you like the shot, and I have graciously taken the trophy Laura offered me.

  4. I really like the zombie feel to this image. I started to do somthing like this as well but it just got too complicated for me. So I just cropped and added the preset filters. It is also very time consuming as well which you noted. Love your explanations and screen shots to show us what you have done.

    • Hi Raewyn, colour toning for such an image isn’t so complicated and some nice sepia in the highlights can do wonders to add an end is nigh feel.
      The more time consuming parts were the buildings and the ivy but with out those elments the image doesn’t come together.
      I am glad you like the final image and thank you for such a nice comment.

    • Thank you, I think everyone did a good job editing this image. Personally I tried to take it to a very different place from where it started really to make it stand out. I am glad you like the edit.

    • Hi, I would have to say 8 hours is quite a long edit time but when you put a composite together it is about this amount of time you need to spend on the image to really make it work. I like to spend some time after editing looking back with fresh eyes, even on the day of posting there were some areas that were not cleanly blended that I tweaked.
      I am glad you liked the final result and thanks for taking the time to comment.

  5. Wow, wow, wow!!!! When I opened your email, Ben, I just sat there, stunned, staring … and staring … and I think I uttered a few “holy cows” (or something akin to that) as well 🙂 Just fantastic. How awesome to have the knowledge and skill set to achieve something like this. I’m taking a move from Laura’s comment and saying I love LOVE your edit!!

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